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Riviera Beach police chief resigns after report released over 'unarrest' of councilman

Contact 5 first reported how Chief Nathan Osgood intervened in domestic violence arrest of Councilman Douglas Lawson
Posted at 9:01 AM, Apr 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-01 23:20:32-04

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — After Riviera Beach Police Chief Nathan Osgood ordered the "unarrest" of a city councilman on a domestic abuse charge last August, he ordered a captain to make sure he didn't include any orders from his supervisors in his report to the state attorney's office.

But Capt. Rochelet Commond instead wrote that he was ordered to unarrest Lawson in his probable cause affidavit for simple battery (domestic). He was initially fired before being reinstated and placed on administrative leave for more than five months.

On Friday, two investigations became public that concluded it was Osgood who was in the wrong and that Commond did not commit insubordination.
Osgood submitted his resignation in the morning, ending his two-year stint as chief.

In broad terms, the investigations found Osgood violated protocol in the Lawson arrest and in ordering Commond to doctor his report to prosecutors.

Blueprints found Osgood made the decision to "unarrest" Lawson with no direct on-scene knowledge and with limited information.

Osgood and an assistant chief said "they did not see anything that would constitute battery or the elements of a domestic violence charge," according to the Blueprints report.

City Manager Jonathan Evans called it disappointing that members of police command staff had a "gross understanding of their own policy that governs the handling of domestic violence."

The police department's internal affairs department and an independent firm — Miami-based Blueprints 4 Safety — conducted the 156-page and 128-page reviews.

WPTV reported in February that the city of Riviera Beach paid Commond more than $50,000 in salary while on administrative leave and not on patrol. It also paid Blueprint 4 Safety $50,000 for its investigation.

Friday's resignation came after a Contact 5 investigation last year detailed the unarrest of Lawson and the subsequent rehiring of Commond.

The captain, who was on administrative leave, was put back on patrol March 16.

Surveillance camera footage — obtained by Contact 5 — showed Lawson shoving his fiancée in the elevator and parking garage of Marina Grande high-rise condominium.

Osgood also refused to reveal to investigators the nature of several calls he had with Lawson and his then-fiancée Jade Calloway.

Nathan Osgood elevator incident involving then-fiancée Jade Calloway
Surveillance video showed Riviera Beach Councilman Douglas Lawson shoving then-fiancée Jade Calloway in the elevator and parking garage of a building.

The investigation found that Commond was told to remove information about directives passed down by the chain of command.

Despite all the findings, the report concluded that allegations of misconduct against Osgood were inconclusive.

In a statement Friday, Lawson called the entire incident a "political maneuver and an effort to embarrass and shame him and his family."

The state attorney found there was probable cause for the arrest but chose not to press charges because Calloway would not cooperate with the investigation.

Councilman Douglas Lawson and his fiancée held a news conference in September 2021
Councilman Douglas Lawson and his fiancée held a news conference in September 2021 about the incident.

Lawson's complete statement wished Osgood "all the best."

"It is very unfortunate that people's lives and careers are being impacted by this. It also does a disservice to the real victims of domestic violence out there who may be struggling with coming forward and seeking help. The councilman and his entire family wish Chief Nathan Osgood all the best in his future endeavors."

John Kazanjian, president of the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association, said in a statement that his organization "has always believed that Riviera Beach police Chief Nathan Osgood committed official misconduct when he personally intervened" in Lawson's arrest.

"Not only did Chief Osgood try to use his authority to do a political favor on behalf of a local official who was up for re-election the following year, but he also wrongfully terminated a police captain who refused to alter a probable cause affidavit in order to downgrade the incident," Kazanjian said. "Accountability starts at the top. Had any of our law enforcement officers interfered with an arrest and manipulated a sworn affidavit, they would have been immediately terminated. There cannot be one standard for the chief and another standard for the rank and file."

Kazanjian said what happened to Commond "can never be allowed to happen again at the Riviera Beach Police Department or any other agency." He went on to say that he hopes the Florida Department of Law Enforcement "sufficiently probes the unlawful actions" of Osgood.

Unrelated to the investigations, Contact 5 also reported how two officers under Osgood were fired for body camera violations in which a suspect ended up badly beaten.

The Riviera Beach Police Department has named Josh Lewis as its interim police chief. Lewis has worked for the department since 1997.

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